Green Lantern and Free Will

Tomorrow is new comic book day. For the uninitiated or those who don’t watch The Big Bang Theory, Wednesday is the day new comic books hit the shelves. Along with the other comic book enthusiasts,  I’m looking forward to Green Lantern Annual Corp #1 because it marks the climax of the long running story line, “The Rise of the Third Army”.

A bit of backstory for non Green Lantern readers.  The “army”  story line has followed the Guardians of the Universe and their descent into madness. The Guardians were the ones who started the Green Lantern Corps in an effort to fight evil and chaos in the universe. Using the green light of “Will”, they created an intergalactic police force, the Green Lanterns, to accomplish their task through distributing rings. These rings harnessed the power of “Will” through the individual corp member.  When the “Rise” story line starts out, the Guardians think the only way to achieve order and peace is through making everyone mindless drones. They want to eliminate free will and all emotion.

After having gotten back into comic books last year, I’ve delved deep into the Green Lantern universe. I’ve become a huge fan of the Geoff Johns reboot that started in 2004 with Green Lantern Rebirth.  Johns fully developed an idea hinted at in previous Green Lantern stories. That is, there are other “colors” of the universe besides the well known green light of “will”. He showed us that Blue equals Hope, Purple equals love, Yellow equals fear, Red equals rage, and orange equals desire or avaraice. All of these colors have the ability to make “lanterns” and “rings”. John makes allusions through his stories to how the  emotional spectrum comes from “the white light” which was present at the moment of creation. Indeed, he often implies the white light is of God and that emotions play a huge role in how the universe works. The emotions become a stand in for the concept of free will.

The Guardians have always been fearful of emotions and the concept of free will. They believe emotions are unpredictable at best, outright dangerous at worst. Through the past nine years of the Green Lantern universe, the Guardians have become  hostile to the emotional “colors”. They are now seeking the destruction of the emotional spectrum and in turn, the destruction of the  white light.

If you’re familiar with theology, you’ve probably already had the thought; “this sounds just like the Free Will debate in theology“. The Guardians, at times, seem like heretical Calvinists. They believe only total control will bring peace and order to the universe.  Indeed, when you talk to some Calvinists, you have to wonder why God even bothered making us in the first place. Emotion and free will don’t seem to have any place in God’s created order.

Many of us want the universe in a nice, orderly package. We want things not to be messy, crazy and open ended. Even more scary, we want our God that way.  Yet, the Bible tells us this is how God created the world. He wanted free beings who would worship Him, not robots. The risk of doing so means He created free will in people, and we’ve used that free will to create utter destruction. Does that mean free will is bad? Not at all. Does that mean God is not in control? Of course not. It just means He seems to like emotions and free will. He meant them to be a part of His creation from the beginning. How does that relate to His choices of governing of the world? Your guess is as good as mine.

In the Green Lantern universe, the ring bearers of each color have used their powers to destroy, tear down and cause the ruin of worlds. Yet, they also combine in the Darkest Night story line to defeat Nekron, the spirit of death. When the colors unite, they became “the white light” the light of holiness and creation. Nekron couldn’t stand against the combined power of emotion put in the creation of the world by God Himself.

Read more in the final issue of The Rise of the Third Army. You can get it at your local comic book store on Wendsday. I shop at The Laughing Ogre.

So, what do you think, you roguish geeks? Free will? Good, bad or not an issue? Comment below….until then…remember…

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photo by: sandooches

About Jonathan Ryan

Jonathan Ryan is a novelist, blogger and columnist. His novel, 3 Gates of the Dead, published by Open Road Media, is in bookstores everywhere. The sequel, Dark Bride, will be out in April 2015

  • Dave Swartz

    First of all, the blog name drew me in. I thoroughly enjoyed the read even though I’m not comic book guy. I also like the plug for Super 8 and plan to see it. As I speak to and blog for college students who are multi media hounds, I look forward to referencing your blog often. The free will thing. Ah, semantics! Are we free to not sin? Actually no and that’s not just theology but experience whether we believe in sin or not. But we have the ability and power to make intellectual and behavioural decisions and choices for which we bear responsibility and which have consequences – both good and bad. We can’t worship or love without it. The same ability we have to love also fuels our choice to reject and rebel. Humbling to know that God thought the risk of being wounded was worth it.

  • Jonathan Ryan

    Thanks for stopping in! Really great you’re a campus minister. Share away!

  • Bobby

    I was having a discussion with my wife the other day in which I offered a somewhat nuanced observation on some matter. She keyed in on some small facet of that observation and really pushed back on it and, while I wasn’t completely wedded to the idea and it wasn’t a perfect example of what I was trying to say, I found that the more that she challenged me on it, the firmer the case I tried to make for it.

    I say that because I wonder if that’s something of the place we’ve gotten to these days as far as the whole “Calvinist” resurgence/reaction goes. It seems to me, the man himself, and centuries of those who have come to see themselves in his theological “stream”, as it were, would have a much more nuanced view of God’s interaction with an appreciation for the will than routinely gets expressed (from both sides of the debate) these days.

    There is a tension between providence and responsibility that I don’t believe the scriptures fully resolve for us. “Unless the Lord defend the city,” we are told, “the watchmen watch in vain”; and again, “A man plans his way in his heart but the Lord directs his steps.” These passages neither obliterate responsibility (watchmen must still watch, men must still plan) nor set God as merely a respondent (the ultimate fate of the city, even the final location of steps, rests in His hands). That tension is littered throughout the scriptures (“Work out your salvation… knowing it is God who is at work in you”) and the more we try to collapse it into a flat, easy to hold, theology, the more violence we do to God’s truth. It feels something like the Heads side and the Tails side of a coin arguing with each other over who is the real essence of the coin.

    Just my 2c. (ha, see what I did there?)

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